Published: 1:00 pm, Fri. Oct. 7th, 2016Updated: 1:19 pm
State and local leaders joined executives from NextEra Energy Resources and Xcel Energy Thursday morning to celebrate the commissioning of New Mexico’s largest solar energy projects – the Roswell and Chaves County Solar Energy Centers.
“Solar energy creates solid, high-paying jobs and produces millions of dollars in payments over the life of the project to landowners and local government that directly benefit schools, roads and essential services,” said Mike O’Sullivan, senior vice president of development for NextEra Energy Resources, which developed and built the projects and will own and operate them. “These projects are something we can all be proud of – an investment in the community that will help sustain Chaves County economically and provide clean, renewable energy for generations to come.”
The Roswell and Chaves County Solar Energy Centers feature approximately 600,000 solar panels with trackers that will follow the sun from east to west each day to maximize energy production. Together, they have a generating capacity of 140 megawatts, or enough to power more than 40,000 homes.
The energy will serve customers of Xcel Energy in New Mexico and Texas starting this year under two power purchase agreements approved by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.
“Our customers have told us they want more affordable, renewable energy, generated by the state’s own sunshine, and these projects are an excellent demonstration of how we are delivering on that commitment for our customers,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy New Mexico and Texas. “Additionally, this is an opportunity for Xcel Energy to diversify our energy production resource mix in an economical manner.”
By using renewable energy from the sun, the projects will avoid approximately 240,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions that would have been produced if the electricity had been generated using fossil fuels.
“New Mexico, and Chaves County in particular, is fortunate to have one of the best solar resources in the country,” said Robert Corn, chairman of the Chaves County Commission. “These projects are proof of what we can do when we work together to help develop renewable energy, protecting the environment and creating good jobs and economic growth for our community and our state.”
The projects have created a significant economic boost for the Chaves County and Roswell area, creating about 300 jobs during the construction phase, as well as five full-time positions to operate the energy centers. From labor and materials, to housing, health care and construction, a wide variety of local businesses have benefitted from the influx of economic activity.
Over their operational life, the two energy centers are expected to generate payments in lieu of property taxes of $660,000 per year for the local area, with a portion going to Chaves County and a portion directly to the Roswell Independent School District.